If I thought the hours preceding the wedding were hectic, the hours following it were worse. By the time Rick and I, A.J. and Janet, and the Fowler family had stood in line to receive all one hundred guests, the next one hundred were beginning to arrive. Fortunately, the food and drink was ready and in place. Friends and relatives drifted in and out of the kitchen and backyard, filling and refilling their plates and glasses.
By three forty-five the band, who called themselves appropriately, Los Ocho Primos, or in English, The Eight Cousins, had arrived and were warming up out in front of my house. Just as Rick had promised, at four o'clock they were ready to provide hours worth of nonstop entertainment.
I didn't see much of my youngest son or his new bride as the afternoon wore on. While I was kept busy overseeing the running of the reception, A.J. and Janet were kept busy visiting with our guests.
I was finally able to catch my breath at six p.m. I flagged the newlyweds down to tell them it was time to cut the cake and open some of the gifts.
I knew A.J. better than to think he'd derive any pleasure from smashing wedding cake in his bride's face. That's more Rick's style. Instead, A.J. placed his hand over Janet's on the knife, and together they cut a slice to share. He picked up a piece with his fingers and carefully fed it to her, while she in turn did the same for him. Then he kissed her.
The gifts were stacked up on my patio. Because A.J. and Janet had both kept independent households for many years now, the majority of gifts came in the form of cards with money inside. I had already put those in a safe place in the house, as A.J. thought it was tacky to open such things in front of others.
Together the bridal couple opened the gifts that were left, sincerely thanking each and every giver for their thoughtfulness. My wedding gift to my son and daughter-in-law was absent because of its size. I had bought them a handmade Grandfather clock several weeks before the wedding. It was due to be shipped to their new home when they arrived there after the honeymoon.
I thought the last of the gifts had been opened when Rick hurried into the house and returned bearing two large boxes identical in shape. Everyone laughed when A.J. and Janet opened those boxes to find inside, matching winter trench coats and umbrellas.
"Because you're moving to Seattle," Rick said in way of explanation.
Janet hugged him. "I will definitely say you found the things A.J. and I need the most, that no one else thought to give us."
My oldest rushed back into the house, calling over his shoulder, "And wait a sec, there's one more thing."
In a short amount of time Rick returned carrying a Basset Hound puppy no more than eight weeks old. A big white ribbon was tied around the little guy's neck.
Rick held the puppy out to his brother.
"What's this?" A.J. asked.
"This is Toby." Rick thrust the puppy forward. "Here, take him."
A.J. reluctantly took the puppy from Rick. I could tell he didn't want to hold the dog too close for fear the young animal would have an accident on his suit.
The mournful little pup looked up at A.J. "What am I supposed to do with him?" My bewildered youngest questioned.
"What do you mean, what are you supposed to do with him?" Rick asked, as if every bride and groom receive a puppy on their wedding day. "You're supposed to take him to Seattle with you, that's what you're supposed to do with 'im."
Janet had kept her thoughts regarding this particular wedding present to herself for as long as she could stand.
"Rick...on top of everything else, we certainly don't need a dog right now. I wish you would have asked us first before you had gone out and bought--" she started to lecture sternly. Her words were cut off by the look A.J. shot her. He gave a small shake of his head. I thought back to what Janet had told me earlier that morning, about how A.J. didn't want Rick's feelings hurt today of all days.
"Well, see...I thought you guys could use some company, bein' so far away and all," Rick explained contritely. "And you both like dogs. And one of Carlos's cousins has to get rid of the puppies, so I thought maybe you'd want one. I'll take care of 'im until you get back from your honeymoon. But if you really don't want him, I suppose I could--"
A.J. brought the puppy to his chest, holding him firmly.
"No, no. We want him." He gave a meaningful look in Janet's direction. "Don't we, babe?"
There wasn't too much enthusiasm behind Janet's weak, "Sure. Sure we do."
Rick didn't seem to notice Janet's lack of desire for the newest member of her family. His smile went from ear to ear.
"That's great! You guys are gonna love Toby. I already taught him some tricks, too. Come on, I'll show you."
A.J., still carrying Toby, dutifully followed his brother off the patio and down onto the yard.
As she watched my sons from afar Janet grumbled, "I hope one of the tricks he taught that dog was how not to leave a mess on the carpeting."
I put an arm around her shoulders. "Just remember that when Peter Pan tries your soul, what he's doing he's doing out of love."
The small smile Janet gave me wasn't exactly overflowing with affection for her newly acquired brother-in-law.
She'll learn to deal with it, I thought to myself as she moved off to visit with some guests. I certainly did when it came to Jack's wayward brother Ray. At least Rick won't show up on her doorstep every couple months begging for money like Ray used to do before Jack died. And she'll always be able to count on Rick to be there for her and A.J. if they ever need him. He'll never let her down, the way Ray let the boys and me down after Jack's death. Now if Janet wants to talk brother-in-laws, I can sure relay a story or two that will make Rick look like a saint.
As I had known back when Janet and I had begun planning this wedding, the quiet affair she was wanting was not going to stay quiet for long. By six-thirty that night the windows in my house were rattling as the band was in full volume playing every popular dance tune a person could name. Those guests who weren't dancing were scattered from front yard to backyard, and everywhere else in-between. Much to my surprise, the majority of the two hundred people didn't seem to be in a hurry to leave, but rather were intent on seeing the party to its end. Which, if nothing else, this hostess took to be a sign of a successful afternoon and evening. My seven o'clock cut off time for the reception came and went, and still my house overflowed with friends and relatives. Children played soccer on my front lawn, while a lively game of Kick The Can ensued out back. Little Toby ran from child to child, barking vigorously while nipping at their heels.
Mama Maria's truck pulled up with its second delivery of the evening. Piping hot pizzas were carried into my kitchen to join the other food. Right behind that came a herd of stampeding guests.
A woman I didn't know filled her plate with pizza and ravioli, then approached me. She juggled her load, shifting it to one hand so she could offer me her other.
"You're Mrs. Simon, aren't you?"
I smiled, assuming she was an acquaintance of Janet's or A.J.'s.
"Yes. I'm A.J.'s mother."
"A.J.?" The woman said with puzzlement. "Who's A.J.?"
"The groom," I provided helpfully.
"Oh," the woman nodded. "Rick's brother."
"Well, I'm your neighbor five houses down. I don't believe we've met yet. Sue Parkinson."
I shook the woman's hand. "I'm Cecilia Simon, Sue."
"Your son, Rick, invited my husband, me, and our four children to join in the festivities this evening. See the boys out there splashing in your fountain?"
I looked out the patio doors to see four soaking wet red heads who ranged in age from about six to eleven, creating a tidal wave in my decorative fountain. "Yes...I see them. They're...darling."
"They're a handful, that's for sure. Anyway, you people really know how to throw a party. Thanks for inviting us."
I watched as she took her full plate back outside.
I turned when I felt someone come up from behind and hug me around my waist. I looked up into the groom's smiling face.
"I seem to remember two little boys who would have gotten their bottoms tanned for playing in your fountain like that."
I reached up and patted his cheek. "I remember those two little boys, as well. And you're right, they would have. But leave it to your brother, honey. He does have a way of making a party interesting to say the least."
A.J. chuckled. "There's no doubt about that, Mom."
"Rick's got her outside dancing."
We moved over to the kitchen window together, A.J.'s hands resting lightly on my shoulders. If Janet wasn't having a good time dancing with her brother-in-law then she was doing an excellent job of hiding that fact.
looked up at A.J. "Is she okay
with this puppy business?"
"Oh, yeah," he told me. "It's just going to take her a while to get used to Rick's...impulsive ways."
For the first time all day I was alone with my youngest. I hugged him around the waist. "I'm going to miss you, A.J."
"I know, Mom," he rested his cheek against my hair. "I'm going to miss you, too." He pulled me away from him, holding me at arms length so he could look me in the eye. "But hey, it won't be that bad. Janet and I want you and Rick to fly up for Thanksgiving. That's only two and a half months away. And we'll fly home for Christmas."
He smiled. "Sure I do."
Before we had a chance to say anymore Rick, minus suit coat and tie, walked in the house hand in hand with Janet. They dropped their hands so Janet could take A.J.'s and Rick could take mine.
"Come on, you two," Rick urged while they pulled us to the door. "We've been lookin' for you."
"What for?" A.J. wanted to know.
Janet pulled him along. "Just come on."
They led us out into the street where they made us join the guests dancing to a lively set of old 60's rock and roll tunes.
When the music finally stopped, everyone was ready to sit down and catch their breath in the chairs that had been carried around from the backyard. Before A.J. got a chance to get too far off the dance floor, so to speak, Janet yanked him back.
"What?" He questioned with a smile.
With that the wedding soloist, Art, stepped up to one of the microphones. "The bride has asked me to sing a very special song for her groom. And those of you who know me well, know that I never turn down a request from a woman as lovely as Janet. A.J., you're a very lucky man."
Art took the microphone with him, mounted it in its stand, and sat down in front of his keyboard. It didn't take Carlos's cousins long to pick up on what song he was playing. A saxophone, trumpet, and trombone soon joined in as Art began to croon a classic made famous over thirty years ago by Nat King Cole.
"Unforgettable, that's what you are.
“Unforgettable, though near or far.
“Like a song of love that clings to me, how the thought of “you does things to me,
“Never before, has someone been more,
‘Unforgettable, in every way,
“And forever more, that's how you'll stay.
“That's why, darling, it's incredible, that someone so “unforgettable,
“Thinks that I am unforgettable, too."
A.J. took Janet in his arms. He slowly swept her 'round and 'round in time to the music, never taking his eyes from her face.
I couldn't help it. I leaned against Rick's chest and cried. I thought back to what happened in January and how lucky we were to still have him with us. How lucky we were to be celebrating this joyous occasion.
Rick must have sensed what I was feeling, because he didn't chide me for my tears. He simply hugged me close while running a comforting hand up and down my arm as we watched the bride and groom dance. My oldest didn't think I noticed him swipe at his own eyes. I guess he was feeling the same way I was.
It was ten o'clock and two pizza deliveries later when A.J. came in the house to tell me he and Janet were leaving. I excused myself from the guests I'd been talking to and followed him outside.
The couple was spending their wedding night in the bridal suite of the ritziest hotel in LaJolla. They had to catch an eight forty-five plane the next morning that would fly them to Miami. From there, they were boarding a luxury liner for a ten day Caribbean cruise, something neither one had done before. I wouldn't be seeing them again until they returned. They were driving to Janet's condo the next morning so that Myron could take them to the airport. This would allow him use of Janet's BMW since he and his family were going to spend the next four days vacationing in and around San Diego.
The BMW sat at the curb and was now decorated with balloons and signs that read, JUST MARRIED. Off the back hung tin cans and an old pair of Rick's cowboy boots.
Janet's family took their turns at saying goodbye to the bride and groom before stepping off to the side to allow Rick and me to do the same.
I gave Janet a hug as we stood by the car. "Thank you for making him so happy, honey."
I was hugged in return and told, "I couldn't have asked for a better mother-in-law."
I hugged A.J. while Rick hugged Janet. "Have a good time, sweetheart, I said through my tears. "Look after your new bride."
He squeezed me tightly. "I will, Mom."
I moved away so Rick could say his goodbyes to his brother. There was no hesitation on either one of their parts as they embraced.
"Take care of yourself, little brother," came Rick's choked admonishment. He couldn't resist teasing, "And make sure you get everything right tonight. Don't disappoint your bride."
A.J. laughed. "Don't worry. It's not this Simon brother who's noted for disappointing the ladies. Take care of Toby for us until we get back."
"I will," Rick promised as they broke apart.
A crowd of us gathered on the sidewalk to wave goodbye. A.J. held the car door open for Janet and helped her inside before walking around to the driver's side. In mere seconds the engine came to life. Amidst our goodbyes and good wishes, and the clatter of tin cans, they drove off into the night.
And the band played on. Literally.
Late Wednesday evening, September 19th, A.J. and Janet flew back into San Diego. Even my fair complexioned youngest, who normally burns easier than he tans, came back bronze. I hadn't seen his blond hair and eyebrows sun bleached white since he'd been a teenager.
Both the bride and groom appeared to be relaxed and well-rested, as a couple should be when returning from their honeymoon. From the sounds of it they had a wonderful time. I was glad. Ever since the Garcia case I felt A.J. deserved all the wonderful times that came his way.
Rick met their nine o'clock flight at the airport and brought them to my house. By eleven, Rick was heading home while Janet and A.J. headed up to bed. It had been a long day for them. Myron had met their ship when it pulled into the Miami port at ten-thirty that morning. They had lunch with him and visited on into the afternoon until it was time for them to catch their flight for California.
I went up to bed about a half hour after the newlyweds. There was no light coming from underneath the guest room door, and no voices coming from within. After the day of travel they'd had I came to the conclusion both were already fast asleep.
It seemed strange, having my son and his wife sleeping in my guest room. It only emphasized to me how rapidly our lives had changed. San Diego was no longer A.J.'s home. Seattle was. From now on when he was in this house it would only be for a short visit of a few days, or a week if I were lucky. I tried not to dwell on that as I got ready for bed.
The next two days were gone before I knew it. My youngest son and daughter-in-law were kept busy doing some last minute packing - Janet at her condo, A.J. at his house...make that Rick's house, as my oldest was in the process of moving into the home on the Grand Canal. On Friday they supervised the packing of the large moving van. They were planning to buy several pieces of new furniture when they got to Seattle, but were also taking combinations of things they each had that they wanted to use in their new home.
They took Rick and me out to dinner that Friday evening. We all came back to my house for dessert and a few hands of cards. We called it a night at ten o'clock as A.J. wanted to be on the road for Seattle at five the next morning. His first class was due to start the following Tuesday. Janet was to report for work on Wednesday.
I heard the alarm go off in the guest room at four a.m. Within just a few minutes the shower down the hall was turned on. I rose as well and took my own shower, knowing I wouldn't go back to sleep after they left.
Once dressed, I went down to the kitchen and started the coffee. A.J. carried the suitcases out to the Camaro and BMW, then took Toby for a walk. By the time he returned Janet was showered and dressed as well.
arms were laden with sheets, towels, and pillowcases when she came down the
stairs. "Should I go put these
things in the washing machine for you, Cecilia?"
"Honey, you didn't have to do all that. I would have taken care of it after you'd left."
She looked around the pile at me. "Don't be silly. Neither A.J. nor I want to make any extra work for you. Now, should I put these things in the washing machine?"
I opened the basement door that led off the kitchen and flicked on the light. "If you insist. Be careful going down the stairs. The laundry soap is in the cabinet above the washer."
"Okay!" I heard as she descended.
A.J. returned from upstairs where he'd been making the bed up with fresh sheets and hanging clean towels in the bathroom for me. "Really," I scolded. "You two are my guests. I didn't expect you to do all these things before you left this morning. I know you want to get an early start."
A.J. laughed at me. He leaned down to kiss my cheek.
"Since when are Cecilia Simon's sons guests in her home? You always insist we pick up after ourselves."
I hugged his waist. "You're right. You'll never be a guest. This will always be your home."
He looked down at me with twinkling eyes. "Then if I'm not a guest, I'd better do my fair share around here when I am home. Right?"
I smiled, squeezing him harder. "Right."
The couple wouldn't let me make them breakfast. They each took one of the blueberry muffins I had sat out and drank a cup of coffee. A.J said they'd stop for breakfast when they got an hour or so north of Los Angeles.
Dawn was just starting to break when the three of us walked outside. Dew blanketed the front lawn and the windshields of the cars. Other than the paperboy riding past on his bike, the neighborhood was quiet.
A.J. put Toby in the Camaro while Janet hugged me goodbye. I promised myself I wasn't going to cry when I hugged A.J. It took every ounce of willpower I possessed, but somehow I managed not to.
"Be careful driving. Call me tonight when you get a motel room so I know where you're at."
He held me tightly, hugging me back and promising, "We will."
Suddenly, Thanksgiving seemed a long time away.
Just as they were about to climb in their respective vehicles, Rick's truck pulled up to the curb. We were all surprised. We thought he'd said his final goodbyes the previous night, as he had a six-thirty charter going out on the Captain Gully that morning.
He got out of his truck and walked over to Janet. He hugged her, saying something to her I couldn't hear. I did hear her reply of, "I will, Rick. You know that."
It didn't take me long to figure out that he'd probably told her to take care of his little brother.
He walked up to A.J. next. The two of them almost seemed uncomfortable with one another, as if neither one really knew how to handle this goodbye that was proving to be the hardest one of all.
They verbally sparred with one another a moment.
"Take care of my house," A.J. ordered.
"Hey, it's my house now. And man, do I have plans for it. I was thinkin' of paintin' the kitchen bright orange."
"Bright orange!" My youngest exclaimed. "Rick!"
"Yeah. And right above that whirlpool tub I'm gonna mount some mirrors like I have above the bed on my boat. What do you think about that?"
A.J. wrinkled his nose with disgust. "It'll look like a brothel."
Rick couldn't help but laugh. He reached out and snared his brother by the back of the neck, pulling him into a tight embrace. "You take care of yourself, buddy." I could barely hear the words he added. "I'm gonna miss ya', kid."
A.J. didn't make a reply, just tightened his already tight hold on his older brother.
When they broke apart Rick gave A.J.'s blond hair a thorough tousling, just like he used to do when they were kids. And just like when they were kids, A.J. scolded, "Rick!" while smoothing his hair back into place.
Janet got in her car and backed it out of the driveway. She gave us a final wave before she proceeded down the street. A.J. followed suit. Toby sat in his lap looking out the driver's side window as the car was backed out onto the road. Rick and I tried awfully hard to smile as we waved to him.
When we could no longer see A.J., I was forced to reach up and wipe at the two tears that were running down my cheeks.
Rick didn't say anything - he simply pulled me to his chest. A few moments later he took me by the hand and led me into the house. He made breakfast for us that morning, hanging around until he had no choice but to go back to the marina.
It was funny. After Rick left, the house seemed too quiet. I chided myself for being such a silly old fool. A.J. had been grown and gone from my house for twenty years now. And yet, I was acting as though he was leaving home for the first time.
But for some reason, that's how it felt.
A.J. and Janet floated along blissfully on a cloud of love that first year of marriage. Their new home, new jobs, and new city, kept them endlessly occupied and entertained.
A.J. became a full-time student upon their arrival in Seattle that fall of 1990. At first I had concerns that it might be hard for him to adjust to a marriage where his wife was the sole breadwinner, but those concerns were unfounded. Possibly if the situation had lasted longer than that fall and winter, problems would have arisen. I don't know, and I guess I never will. In May of 1991, A.J. passed the bar exam and immediately started working for the law firm of Bloomdecker, Hershaw, and Clark.
I was so proud of him.
Janet had immediate successes at her own place of employment. A.J. told me every city official was singing her praises. The newlyweds were soon invited to more parties and gala events than they had time to attend.
What few free hours they had that first year were devoted to working together redecorating their new home. They spent many a night and weekend painting and wallpapering. When they weren't doing that, they were seeing the sights Seattle had to offer. If not just the two of them, then with various sets of new friends they were making. A.J. also took his bride on more than one weekend getaway ski trip to Crystal Mountain. When summer came, they swam and sailed on one of Seattle's bays.
Rick and I were extended an invitation for Thanksgiving as A.J. had promised we would be. It was the first time either one of us had seen their new home. What a rambling old beauty it was.
The streets leading into A.J.'s neighborhood were wide in the old-fashioned way they haven't made streets in fifty years now. Each one was lined with sidewalks and hundred year old Oaks and Maples. Sitting well back off the sidewalks was fastidiously kept Victorian home after Victorian home. None sat on lawns that were less than half an acre of ground. In today’s fast-paced world of instant cul de sacs and prefabricated housing, they just don't build neighborhoods like that any more.
Our plane arrived early in the afternoon on that Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Because Janet was working and A.J. had classes, Rick and I rented a car. A.J. had sent me a key through the mail so we could let ourselves in.
We pulled up to the three story, pale yellow house with white ginger bread trim that A.J. had described to me over the phone. I didn't even need to check the house number to make sure we were at the right place. I spotted the porch swing that had been a wedding gift from Bud and Edie Krelman hanging on the wrap around veranda.
Rick gazed up at the house through the windshield. "She's a beauty," he appraised with appreciation.
I took in the solid oak front door with its beveled glass window, as well as the bay windows that curved out from the living room and breakfast nook.
"She sure is," I agreed.
Rick and I weren't even out of the car when the front door opened. Much to my surprise...and pleasure, there stood A.J.
He was dressed in faded jeans, tennis shoes and an oversized navy cable knit sweater that I assumed Janet had recently purchased for him.
He looks more like a college boy than the forty-one year old man he is, I thought fondly.
He trotted down the steps and met me half way across the lawn.
I gave him a big hug. "Oh, honey, it's so good to see you. But what are you doing home?"
"My afternoon class was canceled because of the holiday. I just got here a half hour ago. I would have come and picked you guys up at the airport, but I knew I'd probably just missed you."
Rick took his turn at hugging A.J. "Looks like you're putting on some weight there, little brother," he teased while patting A.J.'s flat stomach.
By weight, I knew Rick meant that A.J. was finally regaining some of what he had lost all those long months ago. What he had put back on in February and early March per Joel's orders, had been lost again when the trial started. Now he looked good, though still had five pounds to go before he was back to what was normal for him.
"Yeah, well, that's what this life of leisure will do to a guy," A.J. teased back with an exaggerated stretch thrown in to boot. "It's rough, having a wife who makes big bucks while I come and go as I please. Actually, Rick, it's more the kind of life I would have imagined you having."
That remark caused my children to scuffle playfully all the way to the house.
Toby greeted us with barks and licks as we entered through the front door. Rick got down on his knees and played with the stubby little fellow for a moment. For the rest of our four day visit the pup was Rick's constant shadow.
As much as I loved Janet and thought of her as a daughter, I have to admit I was glad she wasn't there that afternoon of our arrival. I jealously enjoyed the few hours Rick and I had alone with A.J. The first since before the wedding.
He gave us a guided tour of the home that had previously belonged to a pediatrician, his neurosurgeon wife, and their three children. In the wide front foyer with its polished hardwood floor sat the Grandfather clock I had given them for a wedding present. Off to the left was the formal living room, to the right the large country kitchen and breakfast nook. Down the hallway from the living room was a room of good size that had once been a bedroom. Now Janet and A.J. used it as their home office. I could tell A.J. had been studying before we arrived as papers and books were spread out on his roll-top desk. The computer that sat near by was on as well. I immediately took note of the old neon Simon and Simon sign hanging above A.J.'s desk that not too long before had hung in the boys' office window.
Behind the kitchen was the formal dining room. Rich, thick, colonial blue wall-to-wall carpet lined the floor. A walnut table that sat eight and an enormous matching china cabinet had just been purchased and delivered the previous week. French doors opened off the sumptuous room and shared a deck that ran the length of the back of the house with the family room. The yard seemed to sprawl endlessly beyond. From the deck one had an uninhibited view of the snowcapped peaks of Mt. Rainier.
A massive sunken family room, 24 x 30 in dimension, was also at the back of the house. A stone fireplace dominated the far wall. The comfortable family room, and garage that was attached to it, were the newest parts of this ninety-year-old home, having been added on in 1980.
The open, winding oak staircase that came down into the foyer led us up to the second floor and the four bedrooms and full bath it contained. Each bedroom had a bay window with cushioned window seat. Another short flight of stairs, six in all, led us up to what once had been an attic. The former owners had converted it to a huge, exquisitely private master bed and bath complete with two walk-in closets and jacuzzi tub. Two rounded windows that looked like medieval castle towers from the outside of the house stood in each corner of the room. A beautiful view of the bay that was just down the street could be had from this vantage point.
We followed A.J. from room to room, oohing and aahing. Though he and Janet were just beginning to paint and wallpaper in the colors and patterns that suited them, I could tell that when they were done their house would be lovelier than any that's ever been featured in Better Homes and Gardens. The country decor they were choosing in both their wallpaper patterns and furnishings only added to the home's appeal.
Our last stop was the basement that had been converted into a family room/play room by some past owner or another. A.J. and Janet were presently using it as a work-out room. His weight machine, bench, bar bells, and punching bag were set up about the carpeted area. Janet's stationary bicycle stood in one corner, her treadmill in the other. To add to the convinces, a half bath with a shower stall was down there, too, as well as the laundry room. Janet told me later the two of them worked out down there together every morning before she headed off to work and he to school. I thought it was the perfect way for this handsome, athletic couple to start out the day.
I could already hear the pitter patter of little feet on all those stairways.
What a beautiful home and neighborhood in which to raise a family, I couldn't help but think.
Rick must have been thinking the same thing, because later that evening he teased Janet by asking her how quickly she and A.J. were going to start filling up all those bedrooms.
"I think you oughta' start out with a couple a' little boys who are just like me and A.J. were as kids," he told her over our after-dinner wine. "Then add about four more to the picture. After that you can start in on the girls."
Janet visibly blanched at the thought of two little boys like Rick and A.J., plus an additional four. Not to mention the girls.
A.J. laughed at his brother, telling him that when they were ready to start having a family they'd just start with one, thank you very much.
Our visit couldn't have been any more enjoyable than it was. Janet and I were up early the next morning, stuffing the turkey and making pie crusts. The day was as it should have been, full of family, too much food, televised football games, a roaring fire in the fireplace, an afternoon stroll around the neighborhood, and lots of teasing and laughter over a Monopoly board later in the evening.
On Friday the couple showed us the many sights of Seattle - a beautiful Pacific northwestern port city that even my wandering Rick had never visited previously.
Saturday Janet and I spent the day together doing girl things, in other words shopping at a local mall and eating lunch out. A.J. treated his brother to a college football game at the university campus.
I enjoyed my time alone with Janet, just like I know A.J. and Rick enjoyed their time alone together. Later that evening I treated everyone to dinner at a restaurant that was a new favorite of my son and his wife.
All too soon our time with them drew to a close. On Sunday A.J. and Janet took out us out for a leisurely brunch. From there they followed us to the airport where we had to return our rental car before catching a two o'clock flight back to San Diego. Hugs were exchanged all around at the boarding gate with promises of seeing them again at Christmas.
Rick and I talked on the flight home of how good A.J. looked. About how for the first time since January, he didn't look tired. About how the weight he had regained had filled in the cheeks that had been too hollow for almost a year now. About what a wonderful blessing Janet had been to his life.
A.J. and Janet flew down to San Diego on Christmas Eve morning that year. They stayed until the 27th. Early that afternoon they flew on to Miami to spend the rest of the holiday with Myron, returning to Seattle on New Year's Day, 1991.
By the end of that year their home redecorating was completed. They both seemed to be comfortably settled into their new jobs and city. Rick and I saw them several times throughout the year. I flew up by myself for a week's stay in mid-May. Likewise, Rick drove up for a three day visit late that fall when business at Captain Gully's Excursions began to wind down somewhat for the season. Like the previous year, we flew up there together for Thanksgiving, while A.J. and Janet flew down for Christmas. Again, they stayed with me until the 27th, when they flew out to finish the holiday with Myron.
A.J. surprised Janet with a trip to Hawaii that September in celebration of their first anniversary. When A.J. told me over the phone what he was doing for her, he added, "I love her so much, Mom."
That Thanksgiving, Janet in turn told me how much she loved him. How happy this first year of marriage had been for both of them. We were alone in the house on Friday, Rick and A.J. off together some place I can no longer recall.
Janet sat across the table from me sipping coffee. "And the nightmares have stopped too, Cecilia."
"The ones about Erika?" I asked, though I really didn't need to.
She nodded. "He hasn't had one in over four months now."
"Thank God," I praised.
"He finally seems to be putting it all behind him," she told me. "Seems to be ready to lay it to rest for good."
I reached over and squeezed her hand. "And it's all because of you, sweetheart. You've helped him heal in a way Rick and I couldn't."
Her smile was as warm and loving as her country kitchen decorated in peach tones and deep greens. "And he's helped me heal, too. A.J.'s shown me what a good marriage is really all about. I never realized how much was lacking in my relationship with Allan. He and I didn't spend nearly the amount of time together A.J. and I do. Didn't share nearly as many interests."
"Time spent together is important," I agreed. "Especially in this day and age of two career couples. It seems as though everyone is so busy going off in their own directions. A couple has to work hard at making a 90's marriage succeed."
Janet didn't disagree with me. "Yes, a couple does. I know A.J. and I have...and will continue to, for that matter."
My smile was as warm as hers. "I know you will, honey."
While all these successes were coming A.J. and Janet's way, successes were flowing down Rick's river as well. Because of Simon and Simons' many contacts, Captain Gully's Excursions started off with a bang. Jack and I had always said you could put Rick in a room full of one hundred strangers and in five minutes time, he would have made one hundred friends. My oldest possessed a natural curiosity that led him to question people about themselves, their families, and their work. A good trait for any self-employed charter boat captain to have. After all, who doesn't like talking about themselves?
Captain Gully was open for business six days a week, Tuesday through Sunday. Rick put in some extremely long hours the fall of 1990. Before the season ended he had hired Nate Garcia, who was still in college, to work for him on the weekends. When business began to pick up again in the spring of '91, Rick hired two retired men to work part-time for him as well. They were best friends, and he often saw them fishing together at the marina. When he discovered they were both quite knowledgeable and passionate about boats, he knew he'd found the rest of the Captain Gully crew. I pitched in and went to his office two or three mornings a week where I filed, answered the phone, and did his book work for him. All jobs Rick loathed. The only payment I demanded in return was occasional help around my house, and a nice dinner out every month or so.
Just like I was proud of A.J. for tackling and mastering his new career, I was very proud of my Captain Gully as well.
I'll readily admit, however, the one thing that had concerned me about Rick's new business venture was how he was going to make ends meet during the lull in the season that ran on and off from Thanksgiving through February. Especially with having purchased A.J.'s house. When I mentioned it to him, all Rick had said was, "Don't worry about it, Mom. I'll take care of myself like I always have."
It only took me a short amount of time that winter to figure out just how he was taking care of himself. Though Simon and Simon Investigations had only been closed down three months, the lone Simon brother who remained in San Diego was inundated with requests from former clients to do this job or that. Rick tried to hide from me the fact that he was doing P.I. work again...and by himself. When Rex stayed with me one too many nights that winter, I came to my own conclusions about what was going on. When I confronted him with my many concerns, he dismissed them with a shrug.
"Nothing will happen, Mom. Nothing that I'm doing is dangerous."
Of course, I didn't believe him for one minute, and didn't hesitate to tell him so. Not that it did me any good.
"Do you miss being a private investigator that much, Rick?" I had to know.
"I guess I do," he admitted. "A little bit if nothing else." He quickly added, "But it's not the same without A.J. Something...something real special is gone from the work now."
And thus said, we moved along through 1991 and into 1992. Again, Janet and A.J. continued to thrive as a happy, upwardly mobile yuppie couple, as Rick jokingly referred to them. Once again I visited them without Rick along for a week in the spring of '92. And once again, Rick went up for a visit of his own for a few days in the fall. I got the impression from both Rick and Janet that they'd gotten into a fight over something during that brief stay, but what exactly it was about I still don't know. I do know A.J. was at work at the time. I think he eventually came to the conclusion that some type of harsh words were exchanged between his brother and wife, because that was the last time Rick visited them without me along. Obviously, it was easier for Rick and Janet not to cross paths if she and I were off doing things together, while Rick and A.J. were off doing the same.
Like he had the previous year for their first anniversary, A.J. surprised his wife with a trip away for their second one. They flew out to the east coast where they rented a car and drove along the rocky shores of Maine, New Hampshire and Rhode Island. Janet giggled over the phone like an embarrassed schoolgirl when she talked to me after they had returned home, telling me none of the romance had gone out of their marriage.
Again, both Rick and I were invited to spend Thanksgiving with them. And once again, we flew up together on the Wednesday preceding the holiday weekend. Rick teased his brother unmercifully about the moustache A.J. had recently grown that we knew nothing about. I have to admit, even though Jack had always worn one, and A.J. looked so much like Jack, and I had always thought Rick's only added to his rugged good looks, it took me a while to get used to the one my youngest now had. My mother's pride allows me to say that I've always thought A.J. was an extremely handsome man. I hated the fact that he covered up those boyish good looks with hair on his upper lip. But Janet liked it, so as you can guess, any debate over the newly grown moustache ended there.
For the first time since A.J. and Janet had been married, I noticed a palpable tension between her and Rick. It wasn't lost on me either, that they both did an excellent job of hiding that tension from A.J. When he was around, they acted the part of loving brother-in-law and sister-in-law to the point that they both deserved Academy Awards for their performances.
I asked Rick on the plane trip home just what that was all about.
"Aw, nothin', Mom. Don't worry about it. Sometimes me and Janet just don't see eye to eye, that's all."
I let it drop there, recalling all the times Ray and I hadn't seen eye to eye as well. I was foolish enough at the time to think that, whether or not Janet and Rick remained friends, didn't necessarily hinder A.J.'s marriage. For some reason I completely ignored the strong bond of love that had always held my boys together. I forgot that in the past, if any woman tried to come between that bond, she usually wasn't allowed to stay around too long.
Once again, Janet and A.J. flew down to San Diego for the Christmas holidays of 1992. That year they stayed with me until New Year's Day. Myron had a fairly serious romance going with a woman he'd been seeing for a little over a year. The first serious romance he'd been involved in since the death of Janet's mother thirty years earlier. Myron and his lady friend spent a week with Janet and A.J. in early December, because he was breaking the custom of them coming to see him during the week between Christmas and New Year's. Instead, he and his significant other were going on a cruise that left port the 26th of December, and didn't return until January 2nd. Rick found it hard to believe that any woman in her right mind would want to be stuck on a ship in the middle of the ocean with Myron for a week.
Janet's nose was pushed out of joint just a bit over this turn of events. She'd been so used to having her father all to herself that even though she genuinely liked his girlfriend, I could tell it was hard for her to suddenly take a back seat to the new woman in Myron's world. But then, Janet had always expected the men she loved to put her above all else in their lives. That's a romantic notion in theory, but as most of us know, life doesn't always allow for such things. At least not on a continuous twenty-four hour basis.
For the first time since A.J. and Janet had married and moved away, Rick and I hosted a Christmas Eve open house. The two previous years they had been with us for the holiday we had foregone the old tradition, simply because the time they had to spend in San Diego was so limited. Right or wrong, we jealously guarded our all-too-brief hours with them.
That year, however, with A.J. and Janet staying a full week, we resurrected the custom. People came and went from Rick's house on the canal all evening. By the time we said goodbye to the last guest at one o'clock Christmas morning, one hundred and twenty people had been fed and visited with. A.J. thoroughly enjoyed himself, mentioning even days afterward how good it was to see everyone. Especially Downtown Brown and his wife Temple Hill, who had recently relocated back to San Diego from Los Angeles.
Whatever controversy had occurred that caused Town to leave the San Diego Police Department in 1986 had evidently been long forgotten, or at least laid permanently to rest. According to Temple they actively pursued him, offering him a substantial amount of money to return to the force.
Because of our late night, our Christmas morning didn't start too early. Rick, with Rex in tow, arrived at nine-thirty. From there we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast cooked by A.J. It was eleven-thirty before we were ready to open gifts.
We laughed, and talked, and exchanged thanks yous for the next hour. Just when I thought the last gift had been opened, and I was rising to return to the kitchen to put the ham in the oven, A.J. walked over to the tree. He reached around behind it, retrieving two boxes he had evidently hidden at some point under the decorative tree skirt.
A.J. and Janet exchanged smiles before he walked over to the couch and handed one of the boxes to me, then handed the other to his brother.
Rick and I both hesitated for a moment. We looked down at the gifts, not able to imagine what else they could possibly give us. We'd each gotten everything we'd asked for and then some.
The big grin A.J. was suddenly wearing was threatening to split his face in two. "Go ahead. Open them."
Rick and I exchanged puzzled glances, but did as requested of us.
As soon as I saw what was in my little box I started to cry. Without explanation of any kind, I knew what my gifts meant. I pulled out a tiny set of pink booties, and a tiny set of blue booties.
"Oh, Janet!" I exclaimed, rushing over to where she sat in the easy chair with my arms wide open. "You're going to have a baby!"
I hugged her, laughing and crying all at the same time.
"Hey, how about a hug for the guy who put that baby there," A.J. teased from his perch on the arm of Janet's chair.
I laughed as I moved to hug him as well. "Oh, A.J., I'm so happy for you."
By this time Rick had gotten his box open. In it he found one blue T-shirt, just his size, that proclaimed in white letters, Uncle Rick. A tiny matching blue T-shirt lay underneath it that said in the same white lettering, Uncle Rick's Little Buddy.
Even my tough old Marine couldn't hide the moisture that sprang to his eyes. He hugged his sister-in-law, giving her his heartfelt congratulations. Regardless of the disagreement that had so recently ruffled his and Janet's feathers, the bottom line was, she was going to be the mother of his beloved brother's child. That in itself, was good enough for Uncle Rick.
Rick then turned and hugged A.J. Naturally, he couldn't resist poking fun at his sibling. "It's about time you figured out how to get it right, little brother. I've been waitin' two years for this moment."
I'm not ashamed to admit that Janet and I indulged ourselves in baby talk for the rest of the day. Through our discussions I found out she was six weeks pregnant. The baby was due a few weeks prior to my August 22nd birthday. A better birthday present I couldn't have asked for.
Rick and I hated to see them leave for home that New Year's Day of 1993. Even more so than we normally did. We'd had a beautiful week weather-wise, with temperatures in the high seventies and plenty of California sunshine. This precipitated several charters for Captain Gully. Charters that A.J. went out on with his brother, working as Rick's extra deck hand. It was almost like old times for Simon and Simon.
When I hugged my son and daughter-in-law goodbye at the airport that morning, it was with the promise of seeing them on my annual trip up in May.
"And I'd be more than happy to come back up in August to give you a hand for a week or two when the baby's born," I told Janet. "That is, if I wouldn't be intruding."
She hugged me tightly. "You could never possibly be an intrusion, Cecilia. I'd love to have you come. I'm sure A.J. and I will be able to use all the help...and advice, we can get." When she released me she joked, "I've never spent an excessive amount of time around infants. I'm not sure I'll even know which end is up."
"I mighta' only been five years old when A.J. was born," Rick stated with exaggerated seriousness, "but let me tell ya', Janet, in a short amount of time you'll be able to tell which end is up." He held his nose. "Pee U. I remember the unpleasantness of it all quite distinctly."
Janet and I laughed at Rick, while A.J. gave him a punch in the arm. Ten minutes later we were watching their plane take off for Seattle.
The phone was ringing as I returned home from my morning walk the last Thursday in February, 1993. I ran to grab it, answering with a breathless, "Hello?"
The greeting I received from the other end of the line was soft and subdued. "Hi, Mom. It's A.J."
Right away I thought this weekday phone call was rather odd. Long ago A.J., Janet, and I had fallen into the habit of talking on Sunday mornings. I called them one week, they called me the next.
I looked up at the kitchen clock to see it was eight a.m. I knew A.J. normally left for the office at seven-thirty. "Are you at work?" I asked him.
"No...no, I'm home."
The sorrow in his tone suddenly washed over me like a gentle summer rainstorm. "A.J...honey, what is it? What's wrong?"
"Janet...Janet miscarried the baby last night."
Tears sprang to my eyes. Tears that I fought to hold at bay because right at that moment, my son needed my strength.
"Oh, sweetheart...I'm so very, very sorry."
With that, he started to cry.
I wanted nothing more than to take him in my arms and hold him, but the miles between us prevented that. I was forced to make due with murmuring soft words of comfort that I prayed would ease his pain.
When A.J. was finally able to compose himself I asked, "How's Janet?"
"She lost a lot of blood, but the doctor says she'll be all right. They did a D and C early this morning so she wasn't feeling very good when I left the hospital. They had just given her something for the pain though, and the nurse promised me she'd sleep until early afternoon."
"How's she taking it?"
"She's...upset. Disappointed. But we'll get through this together."
"Of course you will," I stated firmly.
I didn't want to diminish his feelings for the unborn child he had already grown to love, but I had to say something that would give him hope.
"Sweetheart, I know this is all very difficult right now. And it will be for some time to come yet. But keep in mind that a miscarriage is nature's way of...eliminating serious complications. You and Janet will have other opportunities for another baby."
"I know. It's just..." his voice caught there. "It's just that I wanted this baby so badly."
With that he started crying again. This time I cried with him.
When we were both able to speak once more I asked him if he needed me to fly up there. He told me no, that Janet was due to be released from the hospital the following afternoon. With the weekend rapidly approaching he'd be able to be home with her. He had already spoken to his boss at the firm about the situation. The man had been very sympathetic, and told A.J. to take whatever time he needed to be with his wife during the two week convalescence period she was to have before returning to work.
I didn't push the issue. I knew they probably were both in need of quiet time together. I left it with him that if he or Janet found they wanted my help after all, he should call. I'd drop everything and fly up on a moment's notice.
Right before we hung up I told him, "Get some sleep, honey.
You sound tired."
"Are you going to call Rick? Or would you rather I tell him?"
"Would you mind telling him? I've already been through this with Myron. I just don't...I can't go through it again right now."
"I understand, sweetheart. Rick will, too."
"I love you, A.J."
I could hear the tears in his voice right before our connection was broken. "I love you too, Mom."
Despite the bright sunshine streaming in through the windows, a dismal cloud of sorrow hung over my head as I showered and dressed that morning. When it was close to noon, I drove over to the marina. I knew Rick had a morning charter scheduled. The Captain Gully was just pulling into her harbor as I walked down to the dock.
Rick gave me a smile and wave from the bow of the boat. Harvey, one of the older gentlemen he had hired, tied the Captain Gully off. Rick put the gang plank down, helping the women disembark while shaking hands with the men and thanking them for their patronage.
I waited while he and Harvey secured the vessel.
"Is that it, Rick?" Harvey asked.
"Yep. No more jobs today."
"Just wait another couple of weeks," Harvey predicted. "We'll be going like gang busters again when the weather gets about ten degrees warmer."
"That we will," Rick agreed before sending the man on his way.
Rick smelled of fish, and bait, and saltwater, when he bent to kiss me.
"Good day?" I asked.
"Pretty good," he agreed. He must have thought I had been working in his nearby office. "I didn't think you were comin' to work on the books until tomorrow."
"I didn't come to work on the books," I informed him. "I got a call from A.J. early this morning."
He was in the midst of collecting the tackle boxes Harvey had sat on the pier. "Oh, yeah?" Came his unconcerned comment. "What'd he want?"
When I didn't answer him immediately, Rick straightened and turned around. "Mom?"
"Janet miscarried the baby last night, honey."
I couldn't see his eyes because of the sunglasses he was wearing. But I could clearly hear the lump that constricted his throat. He shoved his hands in his back pockets and gazed up at the sky. Softly, he swore, "Aw, shit."
A minute passed before he looked at me. "How is she?"
"According to A.J., she lost a lot of blood, but other than that she's doing okay. He said she'll have to rest at home for the next two weeks before returning to work."
"How's A.J. doing?"
"He's...very upset, sweetheart."
"Yeah," he acknowledged softly. "I suppose he is. Do you think a phone call from big brother might help?"
I smiled my love at him. "I think a phone call from big brother would be just what the doctor ordered."
He picked up his tackle boxes, kissed me goodbye, and went to his office to phone A.J. What Rick said to him I don't know. All I do know, is that when I talked to A.J. later that afternoon he sounded in better spirits. I correctly attributed those better spirits to Rick's call.
Summer came early to San Diego that year. As did Easter. The holiday fell on March 31st. We had sunshine every day for two weeks preceding it with temperatures in the mid-eighties.
A.J. called me the week before Easter asking if I minded if he and Janet flew down and stayed with me over the holiday weekend. He said he thought Janet could use some time away in the warm sunshine. Although summer had come to San Diego, winter was still hanging on in Seattle.
Of course I told him I'd love to have them come stay. They flew in after work on Thursday night. Rick picked them up at the airport at nine-thirty. I had coffee brewing and a warm pie in the oven when they walked in the door at ten-fifteen.
Immediately I took note of Janet's pale features. I thought she was too thin, as well. The miscarriage had only been four weeks earlier. I worried that the trip might have been too much for her.
She passed on both dessert and coffee, saying instead that she didn't want to be rude, but that she'd much rather go up to bed. I told her she wasn't being rude, and that if she was tired then bed was where she belonged. A.J. carried the suitcases upstairs. Janet gave me a hug, then followed him.
He returned to the kitchen a short time later to say that she was already asleep. He, Rick, and I stayed up visiting until almost midnight. When I mentioned my concern regarding Janet's health, A.J. said he thought she was pushing herself too hard now that she had returned to work. I promised him I'd speak to her about that some time during their stay.
Before Rick left for the night A.J. volunteered to work on the Captain Gully with him and Nate the next day. Even though it was Good Friday, Rick was booked solid with a four hour excursion going out at seven a.m., and a five hour one leaving at noon.
A.J. was up and gone at six o'clock the next morning. I got up with him, drinking a glass of orange juice while he ate a bowl of cereal. He told me Janet knew where he was going, and knew not to expect him back until the end of the day.
"Rick and I will take the two of you to dinner tonight," he promised as he walked out the door with my car keys in hand.
"We'll be waiting," I promised in return.
In deference to the slumbering Janet, I dressed quietly and met my neighbors for our morning walk. When I returned at eight o'clock she was still sleeping. Neither the sound of the running shower, nor my muted movements around the kitchen wakened her. When I was done eating I went out and worked in my flower garden.
I was on my hands and knees at ten a.m. when a shadow fell across me. I looked up into my daughter-in-law's smiling face.
"Good morning," she greeted.
"Good morning, honey," I greeted back while pushing myself to a standing position. Janet was showered and dressed for the day in baggy denim shorts that only emphasized even more the weight she had recently lost. She wore a casual white oxford shirt. Her hair was pulled back in a French braid. "How did you sleep?"
"Like a rock. A.J. should have made me get up when he left. I feel so lazy."
"Nonsense. You needed the sleep." I took off my gardening gloves and stepped over a row of flowers. "Did you have breakfast?"
"No. But I'm not hungry. I'll just have a cup of coffee."
"You're going to have more than coffee," I informed her sternly. "I can see your hip bones for goodness sake."
She laughed at me. "Like mother, like son. A.J.'s been on my case about the same thing lately."
"He should be," was all I said in return. She followed me in the house where I gave her no choice but to let me make her scrambled eggs, hash browns, and toast.
I had a piece of toast with her while she ate.
I insisted that Janet remain seated as I cleaned up the kitchen and started the dishwasher. Our conversation flowed along comfortably while I moved about the room. I refilled both our coffee cups once more when I joined her at the table fifteen minutes later.
She and I were able to talk at length for the first time since the miscarriage.
"How are you feeling?" I asked her.
"All right. I still tire easily though."
I eyed her over the rim of my cup. "A.J. says you're working too hard."
She shrugged. "I love my work, Cecilia. Other than A.J., it's the most important thing in my life. And I can't deny it's demanding. There's just no time to slow down."
"Work isn't worth jeopardizing your health over," I intoned wisely.
She fingered the handle of her coffee cup. "I know. It just...it just helps me forget right now."
I reached over and squeezed her fingers. "Give it some time, Janet. It's the great healer, you know."
She smiled softly. "I know. It's just that...well, A.J. was so disappointed, Cecilia. Much more so than even I was."
I nodded sadly. "I know. He really wanted that baby."
"Yes he did,” she acknowledged with a fond smile. "You should have seen him. He was bubbling over with enthusiasm this winter. He was already picking out wallpaper and paint for the baby's room. If I'd have let him, the room would have been decorated by the beginning of February. Complete with crib, changing table, and enough toys to keep any child occupied to age twelve. Thank God I made him hold off. It would have broken his heart had he been forced to walk by a nursery every morning with Winnie-The-Pooh, Tigger, and Piglet dancing on the walls."
"Yes, it would have," was all I said. I didn't tell her that A.J. came by his enthusiasm naturally. Both his mother and older brother had been inoculated with a good dose of it, as well, where this baby had been concerned.
I had gone out in January and purchased a portable crib that also made into a playpen for those times when my grandchild would be visiting me. Several little outfits, still in their packages, were tucked away in a dresser drawer in my bedroom. I had also spent the winter sanding down, then restaining and varnishing, the old wooden rocking horse Jack's parents had given A.J. for his second Christmas. I could still vividly see
him rocking back and forth for hours on that favorite toy. He used to get it moving so hard and fast that I feared he'd topple right over onto the floor. But he never did, and as I spent January refinishing that horse, I daydreamed about a little towheaded grandson doing the same thing.
My sentimental old Rick was no better. He had retrieved the cradle from my attic that had been his. Just like me with the rocking horse, Rick spent his free time that winter sanding and restaining the cradle he had slept in his first three months of life. He wanted A.J.'s baby to sleep in it, too, much like Uncle Rick had forty-eight years earlier.
I pushed those painful thoughts aside and focused on Janet once more as she revealed, "At A.J.'s insistence, we even had names picked out already."
I smiled. "That sounds like A.J. No last minute decisions for my youngest son. Goodness, I think I was only two days away from delivering him before Jack and I finally settled on a girl's name."
"No, we didn't have that problem," she told me softly. "If it had been a girl we were going to name her Madison Cecilia. We would have called her Maddie."
"Oh, honey," was all I could say about the child that would have bore my first name as her middle name. I knew the origins of Madison, as well. It had been used on Janet's mother's side of the family for generations. It had, at one time, been a man's name, passed down from father to son until Janet's great-grandmother was born. She was the last child of nine girls. Evidently her poor father, who had so wanted a boy, gave up at that point and passed the name on to her. In turn, she passed it on to her oldest daughter, Janet's grandmother, who in turn passed it on to her only child, Janet's mother. Because all three Madison's were living when Janet was born, her mother decided it would be too confusing to bestow it on her baby daughter. Instead she chose to use it as a middle name, picking Janet as a first name, simply because it had long been a favorite of hers. I knew the nickname Maddie, had been used by only Myron. Obviously, for many reasons, the name held special meaning to my daughter-in-law.
"And if it had been a boy," she went on to tell me, "he would have been named Hunter John Richard. Hunter just because A.J. and I liked it and thought it was unusual." She finished with a small smile. "I'm sure you can guess as to where the John Richard came from."
I nodded. It didn't come as a surprise to me that a son of A.J.'s would bear the names of the two most important men in his life. His father and older brother.
I reached over and took Janet's hand in mine. "There will be another chance for a Madison Cecilia, or Hunter John Richard, honey. Just give it a while. I bet that by next summer Rick and I will be spoiling a pretty little girl, or handsome little boy."
A.J. had told me that morning as he ate his breakfast that he and Janet were going to start trying for another pregnancy as soon as she was past the effects of this miscarriage. Her doctor had given them the go ahead for late summer or early fall.
I saw something in Janet's eyes I can't describe when she gave me a thin smile and a quiet, noncommittal, "Maybe." I got the impression she wanted to tell me a long harbored secret, but because I was A.J.'s mother she wasn't going to. It was the first time since Janet had become my daughter-in-law that I got the feeling she wasn't comfortable being totally honest with me. As if she was concerned where my loyalties would lie. As if she didn't want to put me in the middle between her and A.J.
I swiftly dismissed those thoughts that morning though, assuming I was reading more into the situation than was there.
She's just tired right now, I told myself. Tired and upset over losing the baby. She'll be fine given a little time. She'll get past this, and soon be as anxious for another baby as A.J. is.
She interrupted my musing. "A.J. and I have...several things we need to discuss before we consider conceiving another child."
I was curious as to just what those several things were that could possibly cause her to hesitate at the thought of becoming pregnant again. I was just about to be so bold as to ask, when I remembered my vow. The one about not being a meddlesome mother-in-law. In the two and a half years A.J. and Janet had been married, I had yet to break it. Though it was tempting to do so right then, I didn't. I have to admit in looking back now, I wish I would have. If I had done so, it's possible I would have shattered the special friendship Janet and I shared, but then again, it's possible that I wouldn't have. I know hindsight is 20/20, but it's a chance I should have taken. Maybe I could have offered advice to both Janet and A.J. that would have been of help. But, of course, maybe not either. I'll never know now, so I try not to dwell on it.
Janet put an end to our discussion that day by rising to clear away the coffee cups. She busied herself at the sink, washing the pot, cups, saucers and spoons, even though it wasn't necessary. I think with her hands occupied, and her back to me, it was somehow easier for her to tell me what she had to say next. I think she was better able to hide her anger if I couldn't see her face.
I was putting away the sugar bowl when she spoke over the sound of the running water.
"A.J.'s doing P.I. work again."
I didn't succeed at keeping the exclamation point out of my voice.
She shut the water off, but didn't turn around. "He's doing P.I. work again."
I was confused. "But he's working for Bloomdecker, Hershaw, and--"
"Clark," she finished succinctly before picking up a towel to dry the clean dishes with. "Yes, he is. But as you well know, law firms often hire private investigators for various reasons. When Randolph...Mr. Bloomdecker, found out that A.J. was a former private investigator, he asked him to do some work of that nature for the them."
"And A.J. said yes," I guessed correctly.
She put the coffee cups away in a nearby cabinet, then turned to face me. She leaned against the countertop. "Yes, he did. Though he didn't tell me what he was up to right then. Evidently it had been going on for a month or more before I found out about it."
"And when did you find out about it?"
So, I thought, A.J. managed to stay out of the P.I. business for just a little over two years before it became too alluring to stay away. I was afraid something like this would happen.
"But I don't understand," was what I said to Janet right then. "I thought he had given that up for good after Erika's...
"Murder?" Janet supplied the harsh word that was still difficult for me to say in regards to that beautiful little girl. "I thought he had as well. And I told him so."
"What did he say?"
"At first he got angry. Very angry. Told me I was hitting below the belt by bringing up the Garcia case. Then he stormed out of the house and drove off in the Camaro. I didn't see him again for two hours."
I shook my head. "He's just like his father. That was always Jack's way of putting a quick end to any argument he and I were engaged in that he was losing."
That remark caused us both to smile at each other. We found ourselves chuckling together in understanding of what women often go through with men who sometimes act all of six years old.
She picked up the conversation where we'd left off. "When he came home he apologized...for several things. To begin with, for storming out of the house like that, though I must say it's not the first time he's done that to me during the life of our marriage."
Again, I gave her an understanding smile. A.J. used to do that exact same thing to Rick when they'd get into a fight over something at the office. He'd even done it to me a time or two over the years.
"Anyway, then we sat down and discussed it. Discussed just why he was doing investigation work of any kind again."
"Because he misses it?" I guessed.
"No," she shook her head. "At least not that he would admit to. Though I expect that's closer to the truth than what he told me."
"And that was?"
"That the firm needed a good investigator, and was having trouble keeping one," she recited A.J.'s reasons from memory, "and he knew I'd understand that dilemma after all those years of working for my father, so all he was doing was helping them out. That he felt that, as their employee, he was obligated to do so."
I wanted to say, "Bull shit," but I didn't. Janet could read those words on my face though.
"I know it, Cecilia. I know it," she agreed. "I think it's a line of baloney, too. But he's never admitted otherwise to me, so how can I call him a liar?"
"And is he still doing it? Work of that nature for the firm, I mean."
"On and off. Though if I had to take an educated guess, I'd say more on than off. He's just gotten better at hiding it from me."
"But why would he hide it from you? If that's what he really wants to do...if being a private investigator again is what is really going to make A.J. happy, even if it's only on a part-time basis for the firm, why doesn't he just come out and tell you?"
"Because he knows I'll have a fit. Because he knows I'll never approve."
She moved to pull a chair out from the table. I did likewise and we both sat down.
"Cecilia, some of my earliest memories are of my mother sitting up all night in an old green winged back arm chair waiting for my father to come home from a stake-out. Waiting up because she was worried that just maybe this was the time someone had beaten him with a baseball bat and left him for dead in an alley somewhere. Or that maybe this was the time someone snuck up behind him and put a bullet in his head.
"I remember all the times she and I had supper without him because he was tied up on case. I remember being a little girl and waking up at midnight to find him eating a cold dinner alone in the kitchen because we had finished our meal hours earlier and were long in bed. I used to go out there and sit with him while he ate just so I could spend time with him.
"I remember all the dance recitals and school plays he promised to be at. But then again, he'd be tied up on some case and never show up. My mother used to take me to the park on Sundays, or to the movies, or the beach, or out for ice cream. I'd see all the other mothers and fathers out doing the same things with their children, except my father was rarely along. Often times, again because of a case, he worked on Sundays.
"And then I remember right before she got sick. I was nine years old. She and Daddy hadn't had a night out on the town, just the two of them, in ages. Daddy had promised her a big Saturday night...dinner, dancing, a movie, the whole works. I was going to stay all night with Uncle Chuck and Aunt Vera so Daddy and Mama could be alone. Mama was so excited." She smiled softly at the memory. "To tell you the truth, I think I was almost as excited as she was. She took me shopping with her and let me help her pick out her dress. That Saturday afternoon she let me help her do her hair and nails. Daddy was supposed to be home by four o'clock. But four o'clock came and went with no Daddy. We sat together and waited, and waited, and waited. Finally, at seven, he called. He was tied up on a case again and couldn't make it home. He was sorry. So very, very sorry.
"After Mama hung up the phone, she sat in that old green chair and cried. I was so disappointed for her that I climbed up in her lap and cried with her."
There were tears in Janet's eyes as she finished. "Mama never did get that dinner out. Three months later she was diagnosed with cancer of the liver and pancreas. Three months after that she was dead."
We were both quiet as Janet took time to collect herself.
When she spoke again it was with fierce determination. "I was only a little girl, but as I stood over my mother's casket I vowed that never, never would I marry a private investigator. Although it's unfair of me, I've always blamed Daddy's profession for sending that beautiful, vibrant woman to an early grave.
"I started working for Daddy at the Peerless office when I was eighteen. Every time one of his new young investigators asked me for a date I turned him down flat, remembering all my mother had gone through. But then one day in January of 1975 a young, hot-shot protégée from San Diego, California by the name of Andrew Jackson Simon walked in the door."
I couldn't help it. I smiled at her. She smiled back.
"And I thought he was the cutest guy I had ever seen. And within just a couple of days I thought he was the nicest guy I had ever met. And within a few days after that I broke my vow."
"The one about not dating a private investigator?" I asked with amusement.
"Yes," she nodded, equally amused. "That's the one."
"And so where do you go from here?" I wanted to know. "If you're so against A.J. doing P.I. work again, and that is, in fact, what he's doing, you have to talk to him, Janet. You have to make him understand how you feel."
"I know. And I've intended, too. I guess I put the issue on a back burner because of the baby...and then the miscarriage."
"Well, I don't think you should put it off any longer."
"No. I suppose I shouldn't."
"Janet...what if A.J. tells you he wants to be an investigator again?" I proposed. "What if you find out that's the one career that really brings him happiness?"
"But he likes being a lawyer," she was quick to point out.
Does he? I wondered. Or is it you that likes him being a lawyer? Has A.J. suddenly found himself in a career that's just not for him? If he has, then he obviously doesn't know how to tell you that. He obviously is well aware of your negative feelings towards private investigation work.
Not that I necessarily wanted A.J. to go back to being an investigator again either, anymore than I liked the fact that Rick was continuing to dabble in the profession whenever the right offer came his way. I was wise enough to know, however, that a person must be happy with their chosen line of work. Must find fulfillment in it. So I simply prayed for Rick's safety each night before I went to bed, and otherwise kept my mouth shut about it.
I cast an intense gaze on my daughter-in-law. "I don't normally give you advice, Janet, but this one time I'm asking your permission to do just that."
"Certainly," came the willing reply.
"You and A.J. need to discuss this situation. By discussing it I don't mean anyone yelling, threatening, or storming out of the house to take off in the car. The two of you need to agree ahead of time to sit down together on a Sunday morning when you're both relaxed and well-rested. This is obviously not the kind of subject to broach after you've both put in a twelve hour day at the office. You need to tell him how you feel. You need to tell him about your concerns."
"But I have," she actually wailed.
"Have you done so without shouting it at him?" I asked knowingly.
"Well...no," she reluctantly admitted before hurrying on to add, "But he did some mighty loud shouting of his own in return."
I couldn't help but smile with amusement. She sounded like a seven-year-old tattletale right then.
"I'm sure he did, dear. As I said, A.J.'s got a lot of his father in him. The quickest way to get absolutely nowhere with him is to shout at him. As you can attest to, it only brings his temper to an immediate boiling point.
"Now, his part of the bargain is that A.J.'s got to be completely honest with you in regards to just what his intentions are for future investigation work. Even though both you and I have our doubts, perhaps he does feel obligated to do this for the firm. Perhaps they have made it difficult for him to say no."
"I think there's more to it than that," she pouted.
"Perhaps there is," I conceded. "And he needs to tell you that if that’s the case. And in order for him to do that, you need to be willing to listen."
Which was my biggest fear. That Janet wouldn't listen. I loved my daughter-in-law very much, but she had her faults like we all do. And one of the largest ones was that she wanted things Janet's way. She didn't always leave a lot of room for compromise. I was afraid that if Janet wanted A.J. to be a lawyer, then a lawyer was what Janet expected A.J. to be. From now until eternity. End of discussion.
And I knew my youngest son well enough to know that he'd try to please her. He'd try very hard. But A.J. was, by far, not a man who allowed anyone to lead him around by the nose, not even his wife. No matter how much he might love her. Ultimately, if he decided a change in career was in order, he'd make that change regardless of whether he had Janet's blessing or not.
And that's where I was afraid the trouble would begin. Unfortunately, there wasn't much I could do to forestall the problems I saw coming their way except give Janet the above advice. And ask her, "Would you like me to talk to A.J. about this?"
"No," she negated firmly. "He'd be really ticked off if he knew I had discussed it with you."
I accepted that. They were adults, both in their forties now. They certainly didn't need me butting in and telling them how to run their lives.
"I think you should talk to him soon though," was how I left things.
"I will," she promised.
I rose from my seat and planted a kiss on the top of her head.
"Good. Any problem can be resolved if two people are willing to sit down and talk it out," came my idealistic advice.
Very idealistic advice, as I would come to discover.
"Come on," I invited. "Get yourself a good book and come sit out in the sun while I work in the garden. We need to get some color back in your cheeks."
She laughed, then hugged me before going upstairs to retrieve a novel she had brought along.
I was very proud of myself at that moment. Proud of the way I'd handled the first real marital problem my daughter-in-law had ever come to me with.
No matter how this ends up, they'll be okay, I thought with peaceful satisfaction before returning to my flowerbeds.
It was a peaceful satisfaction that didn't last long. It was five a.m. the next morning when I began to have second thoughts. When I began to worry that things might not work out as flawlessly as I had hoped. When I began to realize just how much Janet wanted things her own way. Just how much she needed to be the center of her husband's world. Just how much my daughter-in-law lacked the art of compromise.
I didn't mean to eavesdrop. I guess they thought I was still asleep. Or maybe they didn't realize how loud their voices got as their anger increased. Of course, I don't suppose I should have tiptoed out of bed and but an ear to my closed door either.
"But I don't want you to go out on the boat with Rick again this morning!" I heard Janet shout through their bedroom wall. "I told you that last night!"
"And I told you it's only for a few hours," A.J. calmly pointed out. "It's just a morning charter. I'll be back here by one o'clock."
"But I want you to spend time with me! Not run off to be with your brother."
"I’m going to spend time with you!" A.J. insisted, his temper growing short. "I told you I'd be back here by one. We'll go to lunch then, just you and me. We can go to the beach afterwards if you'd like."
"You were with Rick all day yesterday. I just don't understand why you have to be with him again today."
"For God's sake, I only see him nine or ten days out of the entire year! I don't think it's too much for me to ask to spend a little time with him when we do get the rare opportunity to be together. Besides, he asked you to come along on the charter if you want. He told you last night at dinner that he's got an extra seat. You can fish if you'd like, or bring a book, or just lie on the deck in the sun, or--"
"I don't want to do any of those things," she pouted. "I want you to stay here with me."
"Well, I can't. I already promised Rick I'd be there by six."
I heard her order firmly, "Call him and tell him you can't make it."
"No. I won't do that," A.J. refused. "Nate's away for the weekend so Rick needs my help. It's too late now for him to get a hold of one of the other guys."
"Look, if I would have known this was going to turn out to be such a big deal I wouldn't have promised Rick I'd be there. But I did, so there's nothing more I can do about it now. Besides, I thought you wanted to go over and see Kathryn Coogan today. You told me you were going to take her the gift you bought for her baby. I thought you'd be tied up with her all morning."
"I want you to come with me."
"Why do I need to come with you? I barely even know the woman! Besides, you didn't tell me yesterday that you wanted me to come with you."
"I changed my mind. I do."
"Well, you should have changed your mind long before now. I have to go. Rick's expecting me. Are you going to come along or not?"
"No," ame the stubborn declaration.
"Just go, A.J.! Go and spend the morning with your brother! Just do whatever you want."
"Fine! I will!"
And with that I heard the bedroom door slam. Within a few seconds the front door slammed shut as well. A few seconds after that, my Mercedes was pulled out of the driveway.
I moved soundlessly back across the carpet and sat on my bed. I have to admit that I thought Janet was being pretty unreasonable. A.J. was right when he told her he didn't see his brother but nine or ten days out of the year. And of those nine or ten days, there wasn't usually more than three that my boys were able to spend with just each other.
I thought Janet’s anger was rather strange as well. She never seemed to mind in the past when Rick and A.J. had gone off fishing, or to a ball game, while she and I did other things together.
But then it’s never occurred right after she's miscarried a baby, I told myself. Maybe her emotions aren't back on an even keel yet.
I knew I was siding with A.J. and felt rather guilty about it. Was I being unfair? Was I being prejudice because he was my son? I didn't think so. She had him all to herself far away from us the rest of the year. No, I didn't think it was asking too much of her to allow him some time alone with his brother. Especially because never, never had my youngest son pushed his wife aside in favor of his sibling. Hadn't he just told her that he planned to spend the afternoon with her? And she could have gone along with him. It was true, Rick had invited her.
Once again I realized that the art of compromise was not one of Janet's strong points - and that the desire to have things her own way was.
I didn't see my daughter-in-law that morning until I returned from my walk. She was setting out the breakfast dishes, waiting to eat with me.
If she knew I was privy to their argument she didn't mention it, and neither did I. Other than our quiet breakfast together, Janet kept to herself that morning. After the dishes were done she retreated to the backyard with her book. I left her be. Regardless of who I thought was right or wrong, I remembered quite well what it was like to be angry with a spouse. Sometimes we need a little time away from everyone in order to sort things out.
A.J. came home at one o'clock like he promised. And just like he had promised, he took Janet to lunch, and then to the beach. I had asked Rick to come over at six-thirty to grill steaks for us. When Janet and A.J. returned, the chef had already arrived and was firing up the coals.
Janet's anger must have dissipated with the afternoon sun. She seemed her old self, laughing and joking with A.J. as they both helped me set the table.
It wasn't until Rick came in and we sat down to eat that a good deal of that anger returned. Returned, and was directed only at Rick. She was cold to him, and even downright rude at times. Why, I couldn't fathom. I could hardly believe she'd still be harboring a grudge over the fact that A.J. had worked for him that morning. That seemed rather childish. Especially after A.J. had given her his undivided attention all afternoon.
To Rick's credit he acted as if there weren't invisible daggers being thrown his way by his sister-in-law. Though I will admit his teasing took on a sharp edge where she was concerned. He seemed to be striving to get her goat, as the saying goes, just because she was being such a pill to him.
It was poor A.J. who I felt the sorriest for. I think this was the first time during the life of his marriage that he sensed any animosity between his wife and brother. I think it left him feeling very confused. I know it left him angry. He sat grim faced throughout dinner, forcing himself to bite his tongue to keep from telling both of them to shut up.
Two years after this incident I found out that Rick and Janet had made a pact during the Garcia trial to keep their disagreements from A.J. To keep from him that they really didn't get along as well as they wanted him to believe. I know they both had what they thought were A.J.'s best interests at heart, but in the end, by not being honest with him, they only hurt him more.
The saddest part about it is, that's the last thing either Janet or Rick intended to do - hurt A.J. They both loved him so much. They both still do, though the love Janet feels for him now isn't the kind of love a woman feels for her husband, but rather the kind of love a woman feels for a good friend with whom she's shared both a very happy, and very bittersweet, past.
I find myself assuring A.J. quite often these days that he's not a failure. That as long as we learn from those things that don't work out for us, we really don't fail at all. But I think he already knows that.
And I also assure him that some day soon he will fall in love again. And he'll have those children he so desperately wants.
And it will be forever.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~